When Life Changes

These magazines went into production about the same time that COVID-19 was noticed in the U.S. There are some fabulous articles in all of them (including one in Smithsonian about George Harrison visiting his sister in southern Illinois before anyone here had heard about the Beatles – who knew?!), but reading them felt like visiting another world. I have been so consumed with news of the pandemic that I can persuade myself life was always like this. Of course it wasn’t, and I hope I can remember this feeling when I finally get back to my novel. Even the gentlest of stories has to put the protagonist in a situation unlike any other the character has faced. Bringing the story arc to the new normal let’s the reader see how the protagonist changes, learns, and grows. Having a happy ending may be satisfying, but acknowledging what was lost when life changes can add wonderful depth to your story. P.D. James did this in her mysteries, because even if the murderer goes to jail, someone is dead and the rest of the characters have to adapt. If I’m very careful, I will be able to use this understanding of how quickly the world can be upended to make my characters more nuanced, more real.

Luck and wisdom!

Clues You Can No Longer Use

One of the games I like to play when watching old movies or TV shows is pointing out what could no longer be used. Old mysteries are particularly good for that, as some of the clues rely on calls from public telephone booths, family scandals that could never be kept secret in the age of social media, or bending regulations in a worthy cause and getting away with it.

The game has value for those who write historical fiction, since so much of what we take for granted is barely older than our grandparents if not ourselves. I need constant reminders that huge amounts of human exploration was done on water, not on foot. I think of the westward expansion of the United States and imagine covered wagons, but small ships running down the rivers were equally if not more important.

I’m looking at the tools or supplies I thought would last forever (like the checkbook and bottle opener above) and laying odds on how soon they will disappear. Then I’ll have to go through my unfinished stories and cut those references before I can even think about writing the ending – unless I want to switch genres from sci fi to historical romance!

Luck and wisdom!